“We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art, the art of words.” —Ursula K. Le Guin (1929-2018)
Our families and local communities keep us connected, but they can make us myopic. Our outward view from here can be as binary as ‘Us and Them’. Millennia ago, with the new technology of the written word, we were able to form ways of organizing society on a larger scale with institutions like kingdoms, religions, and later nation states — reducing tribal rivalries but too often creating cross-national conflicts. Later, markets and trading were extended with the printed word, and trade helped to reduce conflict in order to increase profits.
Currently the market form dominates, to the detriment of society as a whole, as the profit motive in the long run will impoverish the earth. For example, Canada tried to use the market to handle its waste, which has recently backfired. We need new ways to deal with global issues, and neither an institutional nor a market approach can deal with them.
Neither the tribal form, our institutions, nor the market are adequate to address the needs of a network society with global challenges — climate change, pollution, environmental degradation, refugees, etc. A new networked organizational form is needed. This is already understood by both the far Left and Right — innovation comes from the edge, almost never from the centre. New forms of leadership are emerging, based on reputation instead of kinship, hierarchy, or competition.
“The current wave of protests in Hong Kong is leaderless … But the lack of a centralised leadership is also a result of the online, organic tactics. Protesters use online forums such a LIHKG – a kind of local, lo-fi version of Reddit where users comment and vote on posts – as well as Telegram chat groups (the larger among these have tens of thousands of members), where the poll function enables participants to vote on next steps: should the protesters stay on or disperse? Protesters vote on the spot, and act accordingly.” —New Statesman
“So [the far Right] provide a comprehensive ideological manifesto that aims to explain the reasoning behind their actions as well as to encourage others to follow in their steps.
In the past, only leaders of far-right groups did this. Now, it’s common among lone-wolf perpetrators, such as the alleged perpetrator in El Paso.
In the past decade, the language of white supremacists has transformed in important ways. It crossed national borders, broadened its focus and has been influenced by current mainstream political discourse.” —The Conversation
Many of these movements are leaderless, networked, self-organizing, and international. Tribes (communities), institutions, and markets have to work together to create a new networked form of organization and governance. We have some examples but these are at the early experimentation level.
Our best hope is to keep experimenting. We cannot give up hope and revert to our tribal roots. In this case, learning really is the work today. We have to learn how to organize our world better. This is the challenge for everyone, in any organization. Try new ways of organizing, learn from your mistakes, and share what you have learned.
The shift to the network era, with networks (electricity) dominating over markets (print), started over 150 years ago, but we have only recently been aware of the impact. Some media theorists like Marshall McLuhan saw its potential impacts —
- “News, far more than art, is artifact.”
- “Politics offers yesterday’s answers to today’s questions.”
- “The ignorance of how to use new knowledge stockpiles exponentially.”
- “The future of the book is the blurb.”
An electric (quadriform — T+I+M+N) society is emerging. The leadership challenge today is to make it work and not fall back into tribalism.